A Dedicated Life: Journalism, Justice and a Chance for Every Child

A Dedicated Life: Journalism, Justice and a Chance for Every Child


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#1 New Release in Children's Studies, Educators, and Public Policy ─ Leveling the Playing Field for All Our Young Children

Readers of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson will love Dave Lawrence's A Dedicated Life

What are you going to do for the rest of your life? For Dave Lawrence, a brilliant newspaper editor and publisher with a distinguished, three-decade-long journalism career who retired in 1999 at the age of 56, the answer in his words was to dedicate his life to a “newly energized purposefulness: that every child have a real chance to succeed.”

The Children’s Movement of Florida: Dave Lawrence, a life-long champion of children, became a leading national advocate for children and was instrumental in founding The Children’s Movement of Florida. Dave Lawrence's Movement is focused on making Florida’s children, especially in their early years, the No. 1 priority for state investment.

Jeb Bush, Florida’s 43rd governor from 1999 to 2007 and 2016 presidential candidate: “This special book is the story of a good man who has lived an impressive, fascinating, full life dedicated to his family, his profession, his faith and his service to others, especially the youngest and most vulnerable among us. How he describes the passion, persistence and skills of civic engagement to accomplish these building blocks to success is worth the price of the book.”

Bob Graham, Florida’s 38th governor from 1979 to 1987, U.S. senator from Florida from 1987 to 2005, and presidential candidate in 2003: "For more than 40 years, Dave was a journalist, rising from co-editor of his high school newspaper to editor or publisher of several of America’s most distinguished newspapers. At each, he inspired the highest standards of journalism built upon a deep immersion into the communities these newspapers served. But the most lasting impression you’ll have will be of a highly principled man applying his talents and values in a transitioning America."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633538184
Publisher: Mango Media
Publication date: 08/15/2018
Pages: 236
Sales rank: 371,455
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David Lawrence Jr. retired in 1999 as publisher of The Miami Herald to work in the area of early childhood development and readiness. He chairs The Children’s Movement of Florida, aimed at making children the state’s top priority for investment and decision-making. He has served on the Governor’s Children and Youth Cabinet and twice chaired the Florida Partnership for School Readiness. In 2002 and 2008 he led successful campaigns for The Children’s Trust, a dedicated source of early intervention and prevention funding for children in Miami-Dade. He is the “founding chair.” In 2002-3 he chaired the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Child Protection, and in 2011 he chaired a similar panel for the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families. In 2002, he was a key figure in passing a statewide constitutional amendment to provide pre-K for all 4 year olds. He is the founding chair of the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade and Monroe. The David Lawrence Jr. K-8 Public School opened in 2006. An endowed chair in early childhood studies is established in his name at the University of Florida College of Education. In 2015 he was appointed by the Governor to the Board of Trustees of Florida A&M University.

Before coming to Miami in 1989, he was publisher and executive editor of the Detroit Free Press. Previously he was editor of The Charlotte Observer, and earlier in reporting and editing positions at four newspapers. (During his tenure as Miami Herald publisher, the paper won five Pulitzer Prizes.)

He is a graduate of the University of Florida and named "Outstanding Journalism Graduate" and subsequently from the Advanced Management program at the Harvard Business School. In 1988, he was honored with Knight-Ridder's top award, the John S. Knight Gold Medal. His 13 honorary doctorates include one from his alma mater, the University of Florida. His national honors include the Ida B. Wells Award "for exemplary leadership in providing minorities employment opportunities” and the National Association of Minority Media Executives award for "lifetime achievement in diversity." His writing awards include the First Amendment Award from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Inter American Press Association Commentary Award. He chaired the national Task Force on Minorities in the Newspaper Business, was the 1991-92 president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the 1995-96 president of the Inter American Press Association. He was inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame in 2010.

He has served the Miami Art Museum, United Way, the New World School of the Arts and the Foundation for Child Development in New York – each as chair — and is a life member of the University of Florida Foundation. He serves on the national boards of the Everglades Foundation and Americans for Immigrant Justice. He was the local convening co-chair of the 1994 Summit of the Americas. And he co-founded a non-profit vocational-technical school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

He and Roberta, a master’s graduate in social work from Barry, live in Coral Gables and have 3 daughters, 2 sons and 7 grandchildren. His honors include: “Family of the Year” from Family Counseling Services and “Father of the Year” by the South Florida Father’s Day Council. He has been honored as a Miami Today Living Legend as well as with the Governor’s Shine Award for Inspirational Teachers. His honors include the Bob Graham Center for Public Service “Citizen of the Year,” the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce M. Athalie Range Miami Pioneer for Progress Award, the James W. McLamore Outstanding Volunteer Award on National Philanthropy Day, the Trish and Dan Bell Community Empowerment Award, the Children of Inmates “League of Superheroes,” the Cervantes Outstanding Educator Award, and the Coral Gables Community Foundation Education Award. Nationally, he has been honored with the American Public Health Association Award of Excellence, the Lewis Hine Award for Children and Youth, the “Children’s Champion” award from the National Black Child Development Institute, the Fred Rogers Leadership Award from the Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families, the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Advocate Award, the CNC (Cuban American National Council) Lifetime Achievement Award, The National Center for Victims of Crime for “extraordinary leadership and service on behalf of abused children,” the National Association for Bilingual Education for “building early literacy skills for all children,” and a Spirit of Fatherhood Hall of Fame inductee by the National Partnership for Community Leadership.

Jeb Bush is an American politician best known for serving as Florida's governor from 1998 to 2007. He is the son of 41st U.S. President George Bush and brother of 43rd U.S. President George W. Bush

Read an Excerpt



"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."

— Proverbs 22:6

My parents loved each other deeply through more than four decades of marriage. Only death could separate them. Both were sure they would be reunited in Heaven. David and Nancy Lawrence had five children between 1940 and 1945. Being "romantics," they came to think it would be good to raise children on a farm. So they bought thirty-three acres in Sandy Pond, New York, almost fifty miles northwest of Syracuse on the heel of Lake Ontario, three hundred miles and seemingly a thousand years removed from our previous home in New York City. Our telephone number was just four digits — 2651.

They knew nothing about farming, but they had read Betty MacDonald's hugely popular 1945 book, The Egg and I, a fish-out-of-water tale about a city couple that moves to a chicken farm, faces almost overwhelming (frequently comic) challenges, and finally succeeds — sort of.

My father, a newspaper reporter at the storied New York Sun during the Forties, thought he could have a couple of cows, many chickens and not so many turkeys, a few goats, some sheep, one horse (all of which we had) — and do some work for the weekly Sandy Creek News and maybe write a book, neither of which he ever did. Farming took up all his time. My mother, among the privileged few in the Social Register (the blueblood bible of that era), found herself plucking chicken feathers. She did so willingly; I cannot remember her ever complaining about anything except old age. Quite ill in the last year of her life, she asked, not expecting an answer: "Do you know how tough it is to grow old?" Our farm needed everyone to make it work. It was there that my siblings and I labored before dawn, before catching the school bus along Rural Free Delivery Route No. 2.

The first five children, of which I was No. 2, were born in New York City — I at my maternal grandparents' home on March 5, 1942. Their apartment building at 270 Park Avenue, more or less kitty-corner from The Waldorf Astoria hotel, was a setting of privilege.

I came to be in a family, especially on my mother's side, that cared about the details of the past. My baby book, penned in my mother's handwriting, tells me that I made my entrance at "4:431/4 a.m." (precision always has been important to the Lawrences), weighing in at eight pounds, eight and a half ounces. "Davey was slightly cold at birth," my mother wrote, "but Dr. Greeley's nurse, Miss Mugford, put a hot water bottle at his feet and he was soon as warm as toast. The doctor and nurse left at about 6:15 a.m." My complexion was described as "very fair"— three-quarters of a century later I have unusually "fair" skin — and my eyes as "deep blue."

This was eighty-eight days after we entered World War II. Our side wasn't yet winning. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President. We were developing the atomic bomb (though only a relative handful of Americans knew it), which would end the war in August 1945. Though I was too young to recognize it, the war touched everyone's life in America. At my baptism at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, my grandfather, Joseph W. Lawrence, stood in as godfather for his son and my father's brother, Robert T. Lawrence, who was at sea aboard the battleship USS Arkansas, which was on convoy duty escorting merchant ships across the Atlantic.

My mother and father were New York people. Both came from large, financially successful families, bearing substantial expectations and obligations.

My mother, Nancy Wemple Bissell, born the same year (1917) as the United States entered World War I, came from a socially prominent family. She made her "debut" in the Thirties at a dinner dance at The Waldorf Astoria. Her family, proud of its Mayflower Society membership, traced its American heritage to a genuine Pilgrim, Richard Warren, who arrived aboard the Mayflower in 1620. (Through my mother, our family lineage can be traced all the way back to 1057 in Florence, Italy.)

Send away, I did, for a DNA swab, and it revealed that most of my ancestors came from northwestern Europe, primarily Great Britain and Ireland. All humans have traces of Neanderthal DNA, but I have a tad more than most. This will not surprise some of the people who have worked with and for me.

Mother, the middle of seven children, came from a high Episcopal family with a tradition of service and accomplishment. Her father — Pelham St. George Bissell — was President Justice of the Municipal Court of New York City. She never went to college, but she was smart and well-rounded, having traveled with her family to Europe in the late 1920s when few Americans did. A few years later, she fell in love — deeply — with David Lawrence, born the same year she was. They were so much in love that newspaper folks thought it was worth writing about. "Cholly Knickerbocker," the pen name of the best known New York society columnist of his time, wrote these words in the Journal-American in the winter of 1938:

David is Nancy's constant companion these wintry days. ... One cannot help but note their devotion to each other. Neither Nancy nor David has any interest in our junior "Café Society." You'll never see them at the Stork Club, and I doubt if they've ever been to the Kit Kat Club — they prefer the more conservative social life.

Or this from another writer in The New York Times from 1939: "Never have I known two persons more in love than Nancy and Dave — and it is my 'hunch' theirs is one Mayfair marriage that will 'take.' "

It "took." Married on October 7, 1939, their wedded life of forty-four years was way too short for them, and for their children.

When she married my father, the woman we came to know as "Mommy" converted to Roman Catholicism, making her, of course, more Catholic than many Catholics, for converts often learn more than those of us who grow up and remain in one religion. When we moved to upstate New York, attending Mass at either St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Pulaski or St. Frances Cabrini Church in Lacona would be an every Sunday imperative. We would march in and "own" a whole pew. My father always put two dollars — real money, in those days — in the collection basket.

Through all our growing-up years, everyone in the family knelt for prayers every evening at eight o'clock. Even after all nine children were gone from home, my mother and father still knelt for prayers around 10 p.m.

My mother adored Daddy. He came first. We children were a strong but definite second. Anything he wanted — even moving to a chicken farm — she did not out of obligation, but out of love.

Many people refer to their mothers as "sainted." Mine was. Until Daddy died, we always thought our Irish Roman Catholic father was the strong one in the family. Mommy's two decades of widowhood told us that she might have been even stronger. This tiny (not even five feet tall) woman's strength was buttressed by deep faith and great values. (My eternal optimism and belief in the fundamental goodness of people come from her.)

My father's family heritage is Irish. Members of his extended family came to the United States during the Irish potato famine in the mid-1800s. The Irish of the nineteenth century weren't very welcome in America — the story of so many immigrants — and you had to be tough to survive. Daddy was the youngest of eleven children, a special and perhaps tough place to occupy. A legendary cutup as a child, he surely was "tamed" some by my mother. Daddy grew up mostly on Long Island in a banking family of some success. Some of my earliest years were lived in Babylon on Long Island's South Shore.

My father was graduated in 1939 from Manhattan College, an all-men's college in the Bronx, a Christian Brothers school founded in 1853. In my father's 1939 college yearbook, you see a confident young man — perhaps 5 feet, 8 inches — staring directly into the camera with a knowing half-smile. The accompanying caption describes a student who spent much of his time as editor of both the yearbook and the student newspaper.

During his college summers, he worked at the storied New York Herald Tribune. Upon graduation, he worked briefly at his hometown newspaper, the Babylon Leader on Long Island. Within months, he had landed a job as a reporter for the New York Sun, a conservative Republican newspaper in a city which then boasted eight dailies. He covered the black-market meat scandal and other profiteering scandals during World War II and made enough of a mark to be favorably mentioned in A. J. Liebling's classic collection of journalistic stories, The Press.

As a political writer in the forties, my father interviewed the likes of Harry Truman, Thomas Dewey, Fiorello LaGuardia, and Averell Harriman, and joined the press corps covering Franklin Delano Roosevelt's 1944 presidential re-election campaign. I inherited my love of politics and government from my dad. (The Sun was where, in 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote to the editor, who responded with the famous editorial: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.")

When he joined The Sun, my father adopted the professional name D. G. Lawrence, even though his birth certificate carried no middle name. (The "G" stood for George, his Catholic confirmation name.) This was to differentiate himself from the already well-known newsman and nationally syndicated conservative columnist David Lawrence, who had founded the United States News magazine, later known as U.S. News & World Report. My father wrote under the byline D. G. Lawrence for the rest of his life.

He would return to newspapering after eight years on the farm, a tale to be told in the next chapter. In 1956, we moved from the bitter cold of upstate New York, and he — and we — had to start all over again. He began by selling real estate — he needed a job, and seemingly anyone could sell homes and land in 1956 go-go Florida.

That lasted just months until he could return to newspapering — first as the real estate reporter and editor, then the general manager and managing editor of the Sarasota News (at that time the smallest city in the country with three daily newspapers). He joined the Orlando Sentinel in 1966 as a political reporter, moving to Tallahassee as the Sentinel's state capital bureau chief in 1968. He became known as "the voice of Tallahassee," deeply respected for fairness as well as facts.

A longtime cigar and cigarette smoker — tobacco being the plague of newspapermen for generations, including me for two decades — my father was done in by cancer at the age of sixty-six on September 4, 1983. Gov. Bob Graham and members of the state cabinet honored him with prayer and words of tribute. The governor called him "a professional journalist, a valued historian of Florida politics and government, and a personal friend."

"His many accomplishments leave us all with an enriched state and warm memories," the governor told Orlando Sentinel writer John Van Gieson, who wrote the newspaper's lengthy Page One obituary. A Sentinel editorial said this: "What made his brand of journalism so special was the way he went about it. His idea of digging for a story was not simply to sit patiently in the Capitol press gallery. He knew better than that. He knew the best way he could cover state government was to get to know everyone and anyone in Tallahassee. And he almost did. Because of that, he often knew what was going to happen before it became enshrouded in officialdom. And so did his readers."

My father was inducted into the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1990. The press gallery that rises over Florida's House of Representatives in the state Capitol bears his name. That I was later inducted into that same Hall of Fame meant much more to me because I would be alongside my father.

I adored my mother and perhaps worshipped my father — and deeply loved and admired both. As my father's first son and namesake, we naturally would have a special bond, but it went beyond that. He remains my role model.

When he was a farmer, I wanted to be a farmer and, hence, intended to attend Cornell University's well-known agricultural school. When he returned to the newspaper business in 1956, there was no doubt in my mind — I would go into journalism.

I grew up in a family where time and energy were not to be wasted. Expectations were clear. For example, coming home with great report cards — in academics and especially deportment — was always expected. I did not always achieve those expectations.

Nine children in our family added up to lots of people to feed, lots of clothes to buy, lots of people to educate. Every one of us was graduated from either the University of Florida or Florida State University. Our "choices" for higher education had to be affordable, meaning either four years at a state university or maybe start with two years at what was then called "junior college." Nobody was talking about Harvard (even if we had been smart enough). We knew what would be "real" for us. Scholarships and work would be absolutely necessary.

Today, the nine Lawrence children have nineteen degrees of higher learning, and every one of us has led a life fulfilling some honorable measure of success.

My mother and father molded us, with love — sometimes tough love — into a family of strivers, a family of givers, people who feel obliged to make a difference in this world. Contemplating less was impermissible.

My sister Annetje would tell it this way: "Most of the family is absolutely driven. If I have a minute to do something, I'll fill that time. That was a family trait. Hey, it could be cleaning a house or fixing cracks in the floor. We will do it and we will do it right now."

I try to remember what each of our parents taught us over the years, and find myself not remembering who said what because they were so inseparable in their values. "Be there for each other," we were told. "Watch out for each other." "Always tell the truth." "You need to care about other people." And: "You are Lawrences, and you are expected to make something of yourselves."

Living up to my parents' expectations, particularly my father's, remains a driving force of my life. When I became publisher of the Detroit Free Press in 1985, it meant less to me because my father no longer was alive. Sharing the news with him would have been much of the joy.

Cancer took my mother's life, too. Also a cigarette smoker, she died in 2003. For two decades she missed terribly the man she always called "David." She was a person of the deepest Catholic faith. I never saw her "mournful" because she simply knew they would be reunited in Heaven.

All these years later, I miss them every day. My morning always begins with a prayer that includes both of them. Mommy always said: "All I want is your happiness." She gave us much more.

They instilled in us values of purposeful energy and achievement for ourselves and on behalf of others. Reading was a large part of this. I can still see my father, until the end of his life, sitting in his chair and reading. Books were a huge part of growing up and the staple of every child's Christmas and birthday.

My mother brought to the marriage, and to her children, the books of her childhood.

Because of her, I read every one of the twenty-eight volumes of Martha Finley's Elsie Dinsmore series, written from the perspective of Elsie, age eight, until very full adulthood, beginning with her childhood memories of the nascent Ku Klux Klan. Published between 1867 and 1905, these books introduced me to a lifelong love for history.

Because of my mother, I also read two dozen of the colonial and Revolutionary War books by Alice Turner Curtis, written from 1913 to 1937. The titles all started in the same way: A Little Maid of Ticonderoga, A Little Maid of Bunker Hill, etc. And I read my mother's old copies of St. Nicholas Magazine for children, supplemented by my own subscription to Jack and Jill Magazine.

My first-grade year was in 1948 at Sandy Creek Central School. That's when I started reading the Dick and Jane series. The edition of my first-grade year (which I have) shows a "typical" American family that actually wasn't typical — all white, living in an idyllic postwar suburban house, a friendly police officer always close by, and Father dressed in a vest and tie in the family garage-workshop helping young Dick make a birdhouse.

When I was eleven, my parents splurged for the World Book Encyclopedia. It was used for much more than homework. The oldest of us children would thumb through volume after volume, eager to learn things that we didn't even know we wanted to learn. It was fun to learn then. Still is.


Excerpted from "A Dedicated Life"
by .
Copyright © 2018 David Lawrence Jr..
Excerpted by permission of Mango Media, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Gov. Jeb Bush 7

Foreword U.S. Sen. Bob Graham 9

Preface 11

Introduction: Childhood to Children 16

Chapter 1 Early Life and Family 21

Chapter 2 The Farm 31

Chapter 3 Florida and Adolescence 42

Chapter 4 College, Courage, and Bobbie 51

Chapter 5 The Early Newspaper Years 61

Chapter 6 The Philadelphia Story 73

Chapter 7 Taking It Personally in Charlotte 78

Chapter 8 Detroit: War and Diversity 88

Chapter 9 The Messages of Miami 120

Chapter 10 Journalism: Crisis and Challenge 140

Chapter 11 Could I Even Do This? 154

Chapter 12 Devoting the Rest of My Life to Children-All Children 159

Chapter 13 How Pre-K for Everyone Came to Be 172

Chapter 14 The Children's Trust: A Twice-Told Tale 177

Chapter 15 What It Takes to Build a Real Movement 187

Epilogue 200

Acknowledgements 204

Index 205

About the Author 207

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Here is an unfailing champion for all children. In A Dedicated Life David Lawrence Jr. shares his ever- committed life story and how each step along the way shaped him and prepared him for service. What an example he is for all of us.” ―Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund
“I’ve had the privilege and pleasure of knowing Dave for decades. In this warm and inspiring book, I’ve learned so much more. He’s one of the most real humans I am blessed to know.”―Gloria Estefan, internationally known entertainer and philanthropist
“Reading this book reminded me of his Herald columns, full of wonder and celebration of an amazing parade of people and things that made Dave and his readers sometimes happy to be alive, sometimes puzzled and sometimes angered by wrongdoing — and always determined to look forward. This book is like that.” ―Alberto Ibarguen, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and former publisher of the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald.
"David Lawrence is second to none in advocacy for early learners. His influence in education echoes across the country.” ―Alonzo Mourning, NBA Hall of Fame and civic and charity leader in Miami
“I loved this book! After a brilliant career in journalism David Lawrence turns his big heart and passion to improving the lives of children.” ―Donna Shalala, member of the Clinton Administration Cabinet and former president of the University of Miami
“This book brims with inspiration and optimism. Dave Lawrence's extraordinary life challenges us to make his lifelong devotion to justice, fairness and children's rights our own.”― H. James Towey, President George W. Bush’s White House faith-based adviser, and now president of Ave Maria University

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